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Joined: Sep 2021
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As I am getting older, my muscle memory gets worse and worse, that's when sight reading becomes an important skills.
Also, when you play on a different piano, the difference in key action and tune can easily throw your muscle memory off (maybe for me it is not completely muscle memory).
Plus all the analysis you do with the music sheet, I now read more when I play.

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Originally Posted by zrtf90
If you're thinking of performing without the score it's important that you know the difference between explicit memory (cognisant, deliberate or declarative) and implicit memory (procedural, motor or 'finger' memory). The latter isn't reliable in performance and if you get that before explicit memory it may be worth keeping the number of repetitions low in the early stages, like two or three only, until the music is in cognisant memory, and put a lot more focus on recall.

If you forget how to play pieces after dropping them for a few weeks then you probably use finger memory. If you remember them for three or four months without having to play them then it's probably deliberate memory. You'll need both in performance but you must get it in deliberate memory before finger memory or it takes so much longer and that defeats the purpose. Deciding to include recall when you start joining phrases together may be too late. Trying to memorise a piece after you can already play it is slow and laborious.

Can you say more about how to get a piece into explicit memory? Are there any on-line sources of information?

Thanks

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I dont think we need to overcomplicate the topic. There are different ways to learn and/or memorize a piece. Each person has different abilities. Some are more visual, structural, auditive, ...

Thete is nothing wrong with looking at youf hands if needs be. You do need to develop youd ability to play from the score as it is a usefull skill. But thaf said some people are better at it than others. For a beginner the most important is to be able to play the piece. If you need to look at your hands then do it.

The more experienced you get the more you will tend to learn by aligning with the structure of the music. But as a beginner, it is usual that you learn by smaller chunks, couple of bars, most of the time. Also you will overtime understand what works best for you and whaf is the type of memory that you have. Most pianists rely on more than one. Also muscle memory is a poor name, what it is is the memory of kinetic mouvements which is also stored in our brain memory, like everything else. Some people have an excellent memory of this sort. But in general it is combined, sometimes in a fairly unconscious manner with other types of memory.

You will find a ton of vids on those subjects and likely as many different opinions as people. I dont think it is usefull to waste any time on that as a beginner.

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A traditional way to learn a piece is to play it from the score for some time, for a week or two, until you can play it more or less satisfactory. And then, if you want it to become your repertoire piece, memorize it and start polishing.

For sight-reading I think dedicated practice is needed, when you play every piece just a few times, that's how I was taught. Prolonged playing of one piece from the score won't improve your reading skills much.

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Originally Posted by harkld
Can you say more about how to get a piece into explicit memory? Are there any on-line sources of information?
In order to memorise deliberately you have to grow and train the recall pathways. That means struggling to recall the music. If you repeat each phrase a certain number of times, a number that may differ from person to person, it gets into finger memory and is no longer a struggle to recall. This defeats the purpose. So keep the number of repetitions down to two or three until you don't need to check the score before starting each day then you can gradually increase the number of repetitions but you don't want it in muscle memory until the fingering is fixed and it's sounding really good. Then you can bump up the repetitions to ten or more each day.

The more you have to struggle to recall, the stronger the recall pathways grow and the more associations you make.


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There's no hard and fast rule.

You will encounter all kinds of advice here and there. Consider and think of all of those advice , and yet disregard them all.

Then you'll find what works best for you personally. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in a situation of low self esteem and self-blame.

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Originally Posted by meghdad
There's no hard and fast rule.

You will encounter all kinds of advice here and there. Consider and think of all of those advice , and yet disregard them all.

Then you'll find what works best for you personally. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in a situation of low self esteem and self-blame.
Maybe don't disregard all the advice outright but use your judgement and experiement to see what works for you and what doesn't.

Some members here write a lot of things with an air of authority as though they are sure about how everyone ought to learn but in fact no one else but you can say what really works.

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About your first point:
I didn't mean disregard per se, or else I wound't have written the first clause: "think and consider".
By disregard, I pretty much meant what you clarified; in other words, do not make a bible out of them.

About your second paragraph:

Some teachers are like that. And I just do not understand them. As Sidokar mentioned above, every person has different abilities, some are visual, some aren't etc etc...

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Originally Posted by Sam S
You need to learn to read the music while practicing, in my opinion.

Beginners will typically learn a piece faster by memorizing it, since their skill at reading lags behind their ability just to memorize how their hands move. But this is only for the simplest pieces, since you have to read the music to get started.

But that is at the expense of learning to play while reading the score. In my opinion, that should be your goal, since you will progress much faster in the long run if you can read from the music while practicing, especially as the music gets more complicated.

The advice you mentioned about memorizing each hand separately never worked for me. If I am committed to memorizing something, then I need to memorize hands together. But that comes after I am able to play the piece from the score.

Sam
I don't think I play anything by memory. I was able to find the time and patience to memorize pieces in my youth but I can't find the time now so I just read from the score.


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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Some people like myself are natural memorizers. In the beginning a piece of music would be learned slowly by reading. Once it gets to a certain point, I'd turn the music over and play entire sections without reading a note.

Even if you're not recalling notes, your fingers would acquire muscle memory eventually. Your fingers would be on autopilot and able to play compete phrases.

Reviewing the score is necessary every once in a while to make sure you're playing accurately. If you haven't play a piece for a while, you still remember certain parts of a piece but not all. You're not exactly sure all the notes.

I find that as we start working on more advanced pieces there is just too much to memorize unless one really has the time. From phrasing, to dynamical markings I just find I would miss a lot of that important information if I was just playing by memory and ear. Maybe if I really really studied a piece inside out and paid attention to all the details in my practice I could do it but I think I would find my music less fluid less natural. It's not just memorizing the notes. When I read a score I'm looking ahead at all the dynamical markings and phrasing as well. I guess you can say that in some aspects we are memorizing the notes and using the score as a map so we don't miss all the details.


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Originally Posted by meghdad
There's no hard and fast rule.

You will encounter all kinds of advice here and there. Consider and think of all of those advice , and yet disregard them all.

Then you'll find what works best for you personally. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in a situation of low self esteem and self-blame.
The potential problem with just doing what one thinks works best for one personally is that some people choose what they feel is the easier path although it has serious drawbacks in the long run. I think most or at least many people who choose to memorize a piece as they learn it do so because they, like the OP, feel very ill at ease reading from the score. But I think not being able to read from a score with some degree of fluency is a serious deficit, and they will never get better at this unless they practice it.

IMO this is similar to those who never learn to read music and choose to learn everything from synesthesia videos. I think few would argue that only being able to play from these videos is a serious deficit but some choose that because, for whatever reason, they find learning to read notes on a score difficult. I think there are very few who can't learn to read from a score, but if one never does it then it's hard to get better at it.

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Here are some examples from my piano teacher, she invented a "musical pyramid idea" on how to practice, even for these simple pieces. She also tried to demo "poor performance", but played not poorly at all, lol. It is Amazing how much layer you can add to piano play, tone, contrast, articulation, mood, style. These also come handy since they are exam pieces for class 1 piano.





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